New Artificial Intelligence Technology Drives the Next Generation of Service

Advancements in technology give companies virtually unlimited options for enhancing the customer service experience. This matters a great deal right now because customer expectations for service and other brand experiences are higher than ever. Consider that 88 percent of customers in a 2020 global survey said they expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives because of the pandemic.

<>Meanwhile, many employers are struggling to fill jobs, especially lower-wage and hourly positions like service representatives and technicians. Artificial intelligence-powered automation technology provides a path to meet customer expectations with lower operating costs. Here are the key areas where companies are leveraging automation now to provide better service that not only increases customer loyalty but employee loyalty too and drives revenue growth.

Easier Access to Service

Self-service, better service over social channels, and behind-the-scenes equipment monitoring for predictive maintenance can make service options more accessible to customers. Automation can improve or enable these service experiences. For example, unlike menu-based chatbots that can only respond to a set list of queries, customer-service chatbots that use artificial intelligence and machine learning can determine customers' moods and goals from their chats. That allows for faster, more helpful self-service interactions that save time for the customer, reduce call volume for the company, and keeps the employee informed.

Automation can also ensure that social media questions and complaints from customers aren't overlooked. When customers' comments are ignored on social, the result is frustrated customers. Other people can also see that the company is unresponsive—a risk at a time when 83 percent of customers say they expect to engage with someone immediately when they reach out to a company.

Rather than deploy staff to monitor social accounts around the clock, companies can set up automated replies for different types of questions and complaints to offer apologies, discounts, and other options to fix customer issues. This can ensure that each customer feels heard. It also shows other social users that your company is engaged.

Automation and AI also drive one of the most exciting easy-access service options for manufacturers and other businesses that rely on expensive equipment. Using sensor data to monitor equipment temperature and vibration, companies can run always-on data analysis to predict when the equipment will need maintenance, then notify customers so they can schedule it. Predictive maintenance can avoid unplanned downtime by helping customers avoid breakdowns and scheduling service for off hours when downtime impact is minimal. This type of service optimization is so valuable to organizations and customers that the global market is forecast to grow by more than 28 percent through 2027.

Lower-Friction Service Experiences

When customers need to connect with a person for service, automation can make the service call more efficient and less stressful for both the technician and the customer. For example, automation can support dynamic dispatch systems that automatically identify and analyze the nature and location of the service call. With that analysis, the system's AI can identify the best technician to take the call, create a list of the tools and parts the technician will need to complete the repair, and map the most efficient route from the technician's location to the customer.

This dynamic dispatc approach saves technicians time and reduces the need for multiple visits to fix the customer's problem. That can free technicians to complete more service calls in less time, resulting in greater customer satisfaction and overall efficiency of the service organization. Meanwhile, customers can track the location and estimated arrival time of their technician with real-time status updates, so they can optimize their time and avoid spending all day waiting for the technician.

Automation and new technologies can also deliver on-the-job assistance in real time to aid technicians with highly technical procedures. For example, a technician wearing a mixed-reality headset that's connected to the company's repair knowledgebase can get step-by-step guidance for a complicated or unfamiliar air conditioning system repair and then get a walk-through on how to test the work before leaving the site.

Service-Related Revenue Opportunities

As customer satisfaction with automation-backed service experiences grows, these interactions can provide more opportunities to generate additional revenue through personalized cross-sell and upsell offers. For example, a system that gives service representatives a unified view of a customer's purchase history, subscription level, and warranty coverage can help them talk knowledgably about that customer's unique situation and suggest relevant options. Seventy-one percent of customers say they've made purchases based on customer-service quality, and 78 percent say excellent service can prompt them to forgive a company for an error.

In the field, technicians who arrive on time, diagnose the problem, and repair it on the first visit build trust with customers. Those customers might then be more inclined to follow the technician's product and maintenance recommendations, which also can be driven by a unified view of the customers' service plans, equipment, and behavior. AI can even help with real-time suggestions for discounts and price points that fit the customer's budget and optimize the margin for the company.

Automation-Backed Engagement Is the Future of Customer Service.

As more companies adopt advanced automation technologies to optimize customer service and cope with labor shortages, customer expectations for all their service interactions will rise. Companies that use these technologies will gain a customer retention advantage over competitors that lack automated service capabilities and unified data. They'll also gain advantages in operational efficiency, revenue generation, employee satisfaction, and brand reputation. Finally, these companies will be in a better place in terms of technological capabilities and customer goodwill when the next major need to pivot comes along. All of this means that the time to start using automation to deliver exceptional customer service is now.

Bill Donlan is executive vice president of digital customer experience at Capgemini Americas. He has more than 26 years of experience helping companies improve customer and value chain relationships through a combination of business strategy, process tuning and industry best practices, and technology integration. He is experienced with all of the leading software vendors in the CRM space as well as several of the mid-market packaged solutions. He is based in Miami.